James A. Thomson, V.M.D, Ph.D.

Director of Regenerative Biology

A native of Oak Park, Illinois, James Alexander Thomson is a John D. MacArthur Professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and serves as the Director of Regenerative Biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research. He conducts research in campus laboratories at both UW-Madison and UCSB.

Thomson received a B.S. in biophysics from the University of Illinois in 1981, a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1985 from the University of Pennsylvania, a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, and was board certified in veterinary pathology in 1995. His doctoral thesis, conducted under the supervision of Davor Solter at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, involved understanding genetic imprinting in early mammalian development.

Since joining the University of Wisconsin

Dr. Thomson has conducted pioneering work in the isolation and culture of non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells—undifferentiated cells that can proliferate without limit and have the ability to become any of the differentiated cells of the body. Human ES cells are a broadly enabling research tool that allow unprecedented access to the cellular components of the human body, with applications in basic research, drug discovery, and transplantation medicine. Dr. Thomson directed the group that reported the first isolation of embryonic stem cell lines from a non-human primate in 1995, work that led his group to the first successful isolation of human embryonic stem cell lines in 1998. Dr. Thomson's group has subsequently been involved in demonstrating the developmental potential of human ES cells in lineage-specific differentiation (such as blood, trophoblast, neural tissue, and heart) in collaborative efforts with U.W. physician-scientists. The current focus of his laboratory is on understanding how ES cells can form any cell in the body (pluripotency); how an ES cell chooses between self-renewal and the initial decision to differentiate; and how a differentiated cell with limited developmental potential can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent cell.

James Thomson
James Thomson, Director of Regenerative Biology,
Morgridge Institute for Research